Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 Dot-to-Hot Darcy: 40 Literary Lovers and Heart-throbs


Dot-to-Hot Darcy is a combination of scenes from literature, with a romantic "heart-throb" in dot-to-dot form to occupy each page spread. Along with the illustrations, there is a brief synopsis of the the character, what book he is found in, and commentary on his traits. Reading the text is like listening to a really clever friend explain what she likes and dislikes about each of these figures. Pontmercy from Les Miserables resembles an app "programmed for romance." Bolkonsky from War and Peace earns "#hotprince." And we are informed that Laurie from Little Women "should feel ashamed" for picking the wrong sister.

This is not a Cliff's Notes version of the books that are referenced. Instead, this is an entertaining look at major romantic figures from 40 different pieces of literature. With its combination of dot-to-dot pictures, coloring pages, and witty character analysis, it is the perfect companion for a rainy afternoon, a sick day spent on the couch, or an evening with friends and chocolate. 

I received a sample from the publisher for review purposes.

Spring Reading 2017 In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs


When my father died two years ago, my brother and I talked about his influence on us as we were growing up. Dad was a computer programmer; my brother earned a double graduate degree in mathematics and computer science, while I run coding and robotics programs at my elementary school. Dad loved to read; we are both avid readers. But one of the earliest influences he had on us besides reading, was music. He loved music and performed in many church groups, and there were often records playing in the house when we were young (yes, vinyl). The majority of the albums were by gospel or folk groups, but Dad also had The Beatles. And that is where our love of rock and roll began.

Reading through the essays in this book was like having conversations with my brother about the different songs. Remembering the first time we realized this was a different type of music than The Kingston Trio or Simon and Garfunkel. Noticing songs on the car radio that we had heard on the stereo at home and singing along. Thinking of the first time we managed to play one of the songs on the piano or guitar. Laughing over the memories together.  Famous authors and musicians may have written the essays, but there is an inclusiveness about them that pulls you in as you read. We all have similar memories of where we were when we first discovered a Beatles album (whatever the medium), or a story about our favorite song. The remembrances of how a specific song connects to a life event or loved one are also something communal that we can add to with our own memories.

If you are a Beatles fan of any age, or simply interested in rock history and its impact on culture, then you should pick up a copy of this book. The discussions of how the group changed the face of popular music and how the songs changed as they matured as musicians and explored new techniques are interesting even to those of us not in the industry. Putting the essays in chronological order by the release date of the songs was a great idea. Even though the authors may have come to each song at different points between its release and the present day, we can still see the group's evolution over the years. And it reinforces the point that The Beatles have a continuing impact on those who have been listeners all their lives, those who have only recently discovered an affinity for their work, and everyone in between.

I highly recommend this book for young adults and up. (There are some instances of language that keep it from being ideal for a younger audience.)   I received access to the galley for free through the First to Read program.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 Free Space (Evagardian #2)


Let me confess. I would have rated this book more highly, but I am angry with the author for the cliffhanger ending. Those who have read Admiral (book 1 of the series), will be happy to see the return of the titular character, as well as Tessa Salmagard - another survivor of the previous adventure. That happiness may be short-lived, when they are quite speedily dropped into another dangerous situation and battling for their lives. After all, they deserve a little vacation, don't they?

The Admiral (we still don't know his name), and Salmagard meet up for a brief R&R leave, but there is nothing restful or relaxing about the circumstances that develop. They are thrown together with two more Imperial soldiers, Sei and Diana, and have to use their varied skills to survive repeated hazards. Without spoiling things too much, let me just throw out some examples in no particular order - cults, indentured servitude, cryosleep, poisoning, free market economy, and tacky lingerie.

Fans of the series will recognize the Admiral's quick wits and general snarkiness when he's stressed. At one point he can't speak and needs some medical help. When he fails to communicate his distress to someone using only his facial expression, he thinks to himself, "Did she think I was making faces at her for my health? Because I was." There are also pop culture references for film fans. Diana quips, "Have you ever danced with an Everwing in the pale moonlight?" as she maneuvers a space craft while being pursued. Our hero tells an opponent, "You think I'm sitting here because I don't have the strength to stand." And the man replies, "I've seen that drama." (You gotta love a good "Princess Bride" line.)

For fans of SciFi/fantasy who enjoy intrigue, high speed chases, sarcastic quips, and the debate of what makes conduct honorable, this is a series not to miss. Even if I am mad about the ending leaving us all in suspense.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, his Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing

This book accomplishes a number of things. It provides a biography of Hermann Rorschach, traces the development of his ink blots and their use since that time, and also delves into the nature of perception itself. As part of the biography and the explanation of how the his ink blot "test" spread and changed over time, it also traces the changes in psychology, psychiatry, and the treatment of mental and emotional problems. Any or all of these topics could be an interesting subject to read about, but seeing how they have interacted and influenced each other is fascinating. The inclusion of color pages with photos of Rorschach and reprints of a few of the ink blots helps the reader make a visual connection with the material.

Anyone interested in the history of psychoanalysis in the United States will appreciate the way Searls covers the changes from each generation and the swing from desiring an X-ray of the psyche to preferring quantifiable data, as well as the various groups that have defended the use of the Rorschach, argued against it, or attempted to revise it. 

Those who have actually undergone the Rorschach process will learn the reasoning behind its development and what its inventor hoped to gain from it use, as well as some of the more modern explanations of how it adds to a complete profile of an individual being studied or treated. I remember taking the "test" as part of a study being done on college students during my undergrad years. Those of use who participated were never told the results of our interviews, but at least I can now guess at what they hoped to learn.

The inclusion of how the ink blots were used during WWII, the Nuremberg Trials, and in cultural anthropology will be of interest to students of history and social studies in general.

Altogether a satisfying read, with plenty of food for thought and connections to many different interests. Please visit the publisher's website for more information on the author or the book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

SYNC 2017 Begins April 27th

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens. Returning April 27 2017, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week - pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. Sign up for email or text alerts and be first to know when new titles are available to download at

I participate in SYNC every summer and I always find books that I enjoy. If you haven't tried it yet - get SYNCed this summer.